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Vulnerable Planet


moved to America, these rich life experiences had a deep influence on Leah’s art. As every place has its own character, style and culture, Leah learned to understand and appreciate dif- ferent points of view and incorporate varying perspectives through observing and experienc- ing the world around her. She said that it was liberating to feel free from limited points of view and to be able to explore possibilities in art and art creations. She thinks that artistic development


involves many kinds of self-critique. Dis- satisfaction pushes artists to investigate new solutions. At one point, her personal life was altered in a fundamental way, and with it her cultural environment changed. She has changed direction several times throughout her art career. Leah was an oil painting artist in a realistic idiom when in China, and she became an abstract art student when she was in gradu- ate school in the US. After eight years in America, the impor-


tant turning point for Leah came one day in graduate school. In an interdisciplinary stud- ies class, the professor asked: can you define “painting” without using the words “paint, brush, paper, or canvas”? It was a good ques- tion and very difficult to answer. Leah scram- bled for weeks and piled a lot of words and sentences onto paper. And she was amazed to find that, for better or for worse, although she collected a long list of definitions, she couldn’t get one clear answer. The important thing was that Leah opened her mind and pushed her limits. “When you do that, any- thing is possible,” she said. For Leah, art creation is a decision-mak-


ing process, intentionally and intuitively. Fre- quently, she creates a number of different piec- es of works at the same time, which enables her


to give different thoughts a space and gives her time to adjust any issues in the process of crea- tion. When she finds that some elements don’t work properly on one piece, Leah will leave it for a while and move on to other works. She is much like a free-style artist, and doesn’t have a specific time frame to complete any artwork. Usually it takes a few days, but sometimes it can take a few months to finish. Leah said that she can sense the time when an artwork is going to be completed. Leah has her own philosophy about finding


inspiration for creation, which is look, think, and make. She said that her inspiration for artistic creation came from all over. She travels a lot and likes observing things. She sometimes finds small things which excite her imagina- tion in unexpected ways. In addition, she often reads books and stories that interest her and she uses her imagination to re-create narratives for works of art. In many paintings, she intentionally deliv-


ers movement and energetic chaos in balanced visual placements. “Color choices present sym- bolic moods and allusions,” she said. Leah says that her paintings, in their current form, involve interplay between representation and abstraction, and a dialogue between Chinese and Western perspectives in art. She said that “artistic development involves


construction and deconstruction, both of which involve risks and the possibility of dis- covery.” In her view, paper cutting is essentially the same as creating a painting. The core of both is the “concept.” The only difference is the tools. To Leah, cutting paper is like draw- ing with a knife, and setting up an installation is like composing a painting in an open space. She liberates her imagination, creates free- formed imagery patterns, and incorporates


Leah Wong


these images in paper cutting. These creative images bring diverse personalities into her work. Her goal is to achieve an open-ended conceptual narration, fusing personal expres- sion with shared social and cultural spaces while leaving room for viewers to bring their own experiences and imagination to the imag- es. Paper cutting brings her gratification when she cuts and installs papers spontaneously. And the major transformation from 2-D to 3-D provides for her a feeling of free play. Now, after leaving China for almost twen-


ty years, Leah is bringing her art works back to China. “I value my Chinese traditions and embrace the differences with other cultures,” she said. “I believe that an artist must pursue a unique personal voice in their art but the ‘voice’ always originates from their cultural background.” Leah knows that it is difficult for her artwork to fit everyone’s taste, but she tries her best to satisfy herself, and she trusts that sooner or later someone will share her taste. She believes that Chinese people will come to understand and accept her works. In addition to art creation, Leah likes read-


ing cookbooks and trying out recipes, but she never follows all the directions entirely. She likes to reinvent the dishes to suit her and her husband’s taste. She also likes gardening. She has a busy schedule every day, but she pays a lot of attention to health-related issues. She does a couple of hours of Yoga every week and also occasionally goes for a massage to release stress. Leah has recently been busy on two group exhibitions, and a solo show planned for 2014 in the US. She is currently working on a paper- installation piece for a group show called “Diverse” at the Ross Museum, Ohio Wesleyan University, scheduled to open on February 24.


SpaChina • 2013 | 97


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